Thursday, December 18, 2014

Oh Chanukah oh Chanukkiah

No, I didn't spell the name of the holiday wrong- I'm just obsessed with the fact that we don't light Menorah's we light Chanukkiah's.  To clarify- a Menorah has 7 candles total, 6 on each side and one in the middle.  It was what was used in the Temple to light up the space, and created the concept of the Eternal Flame we see in synagogues today.  The story of Chanukah is that the Temple was defiled and desecrated by Antiochus.  So, a bunch of Jews named the Maccabees decided to make a stand and take the temple back.  My mom always commented that this was the first fight for religious freedom.  My husband says the Maccabees were terrorists...but moving on...

Once they won the fight with Antiochus and reclaimed the temple mount, they discovered that all of the holy oil had been desecrated.  It takes 8 days to make new oil.  Somewhere, someone found a single flask of pure oil, and they used that to light the Menorah for the first time.  However, a great miracle happened there and the oil remained lighting the Menorah for eight days, until we could make and purify new oil.

So, when we talk about Chanukah, we are commemorating that there were eight days of light with a special candleabra made for the occasion.  I have no idea when we started to just call it a Menorah, I wish I knew.  My understanding is that in Israel a Menorah just means a lamp, and the Chanukkiah (the actual word) was created by Eliazer Ben YEhuda.

So, enough of the history lesson- on to the Chanukkiah

Around our house there is a Chanukkiah everywhere you look practically.  And that's not including the ones we are actually using candles on. 

It's tradition to have your Chaukkiah by the front door, or by a window so that those who are passing by can share in it's light.   We used to do this (see evidence of previous years below), but since we've moved EG's playspace to this area, it didn't seem like a great place for a Chanukkiah.

So we've put up a sticky window Chanukkiah instead.  We have two of them, one on the front window and one on the back

Next we have the two ultimate child friendly Chanukkiahs.  One was a gift from Auntie Lezlie to EG last year, though she's only really old enough for it this year.  The other is a great find from Target.  They have similar ones at Pottery Barn.  Those two stores are my favorite place for Chanukah items.  They really go all out and include the holiday in their offerings...

Anyways, the wood one has numbers, and you turn the numbers around to reveal the flames.

This one has small felt soft candles that you stick into each of the different holes at the top.  Unfortunately it has each candle numbered, which EG can't do right now.  So, I let her choose the candle to add to the Chanukkiah, then when she goes to bed I fish out the right one.  Yup, that's right folks, I undo her hard work and do it again myself.

 The last Chanukkiah that we have is probably my personal favorite.  That's because it was made with extreme care and love by my Sister-in-Law for EG last year.  And it's absolutely wonderful. I couldn't ask for a better SIL, and this is just one of the many ways she proves that!  It's made like a felt board, and is really fun for EG. It's hanging in her playspace, so she has easy access to it.

You may be wondering about why we are lighting the candles what will probably seem to be backwards.  Here's a little infographic on that...  From Chai & Home, a blog I really like.  It's also incredibly accurate, which is a nice touch as well.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Decor for the holidays

You know that we are techincally an Interfaith Family (despite Working Dad's insistence that are aren't).  Since he grew up non-Jewish, we have a lot of family heritage that harkens back to Christmas, and that's something that we try to incorporate into our lives.

For us, that means that we celebrate Christmas with his family every year.  This year we have at least 3 different celebrations, and I'm excited to enjoy them.

However, inside our home we've always just celebrated Chanukah.  It comes with a catch, however.  Since Working Dad is out of his parents home, he was gifted all of his original ornanments- the cute 'babies first Christmas' and other meaningful ornaments from his childhood.  These memories don't just disappear because we don't celebrate Christmas.  And we've since been gifted some lovely Jewish star ornaments as well.

So, we improvise...

I give you our holiday mantel.  It has the family menorah (given to me when I was 13) plus a wooden menorah for EG. A bunch of cute blue and gold/silver ornaments and candles. It can look really pretty when they all have their candles burning.

You can also see off to the side, our celebration of memories.  A wreath that smells nice, brings some of the evergreen home, and also allows us to hang those ornaments that we otherwise wouldn't have a place for.

 Ever since I've known Working Dad he's always had a wreath in his home for the holidays.  Typically you would put one on the front door, but that wouldn't really work with all the delicate ornaments we have decorating ours.

You can see that it's really become a place for everything- and that I've Jew-ified it up quite a bit. We have ornaments that mean a lot to both Working Dad and to me.

What do you do with your Interfaith traditions?  How do you incorporate your family history, while staying true to the religion of you family?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Challah Challenge: Babkhallah

When I was visiting my sister in San Jose she had her latest issue of Bon Apetit on display on her coffee table.  I couldn't help but pick it up, and I'm certainly glad I did, because it brought me... Babkhallah

Now, I made this recipe twice.  Or I should say I attempted to make this recipe twice.  And both times the dough would not rise.  It says to leave it to rise for 1.5-2.5 hours, but it never got much bigger than the ball I started with.

I thought it was my yeast, I thought it was the heat, hence trying it twice.

In the end, still delicious, but I'd do a few things differently.


  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 ¼-oz. envelope active dry yeast
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled, plus more
  • cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more

Filling and Assembly

  • 6 ounces bittersweet Semi-Sweet (at least!) chocolate, finely chopped
  • cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • All-purpose flour (for surface)
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Granulated sugar (for sprinkling)

Make the dough like you would a normal Challah dough.  Proof the yeast with the milk, add the eggs and the butter together with the vanilla, then mix all wet ingredients.

Then mix the salt and the flour together with the sugar.  Mix Dry into wet, and form into a dough ball.  Knead for 5-10 minutes.  Here it says 'knead until not shiny' but I couldn't get that to work.

Here's the mess I was left with after putting together the dough...

And my eager helper, making it all possible :-)

Then you take the chocolate and chop it up really fine. Add it to the sugar, and cinnamon.  When the dough rises (remember, I couldn't get mine to rise at all!) then you roll it out into three long sections.  Spread on some butter, pour on the chocolate/cinnamon and press it down into the dough.  Roll the dough up, pressing the seams together.

Then braid the challah the way you normally would.  I had to stretch out the three sections a lot to get them to braid.  And the ends didn't really come together the way I would have liked.  Spread with an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in the oven at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

It's supposed to be done with it's golden on top, and sounds hollow. I'm not sure about when it was supposed to be done, but I think it turned out gorgeous.

In the end it turned out a bit bitter in the chocolate for me.  It also fell apart into three different pieces, not really staying together when you slice it.

Would you try Babkhalla?

I will try it again, maybe with better chocolate.  Any other thoughts?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chanukah Wear

Thank you so much to my cousin Lezlie for introducing me to...
What a great website full of amazing Chanukah gear.  Totally awesome, a little bit kitch. You might finally have a sweater to wear to the Christmas sweater party. I may have just spent way to much money on this website, when I should have been wrapping gifts, sleeping, or finishing the half assembled IKEA furniture in my living room.

One of the hard parts about this time of year is all the adorable clothing, both for adults and for kiddos in the colors and themes of Christmas.  Yes, you can buy something with snowmen on it, and yes, I do that.  However, that doesn't make it Chanukah apparel. At Target they typically have a blue or silver dress to buy, but again, that doesn't make it Chanukah- that just makes it not Christmas.  Same thing with most of the major stores (in fact, Ocho was gifted an AMAZING blue and white polka dot dress- which will be her Chanukah dress- by Baby Gap).  But still, it's not like they have Dreidels on them...

Today in my class with Ocho some of the kiddos were SO adorable in the Christmas outfits. 

I know, sort of a terrible picture... little M moved while I was surreptitiously snapping a photo of her cuteness...

Check this place out- I can't wait to get my parcels. 

PS- special thanks to Working Dad- I used that gift card you gave me.... :-)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tales of December

Every December there are tales I tell my children.  Because I want them to feel included in the festivities of the season, and not rejected.

I tell my kids that the pretty lights they see on all the houses are there because it gets dark out early, and people want pretty lights to help light up the night.  I don't want to tell my children that these are christmas lights. I don't want any lights we may put up on our house to be for Christmas.  I want them to be festive and mean holiday joy.

I tell my kids that Santa is a jolly guy who visits Christians to celebrate their holiday of Christmas. I avoid any conversation of presents, or where he came from. I don't want my daughters to think that presents come from Santa. Not only because we don't believe in Santa, but also because I think it devalues the gifts and money we spend on our kiddos.  Working Dad works hard each day to support our family to get the money to buy these things.  I work hard to choose the items, get them, wrap them, etc. to make the holiday fun for all of us.  It's not some man in the North pole who sees you while you sleep (creepy...!)

I change the radio station when Christmas songs come on. 

I focus on the snowy songs, and try to talk up our trip to Tahoe where we will visit the snow soon.

I weave tales of the holidays to suit our family.  Because for me the December Dilema is very real.  There is a real feeling of being left out, forgotten, and out of place during this season.  And it's starting earlier and earlier each year. 

I don't want my kids to feel left out, and certainly being at a Jewish Daycare helps with that situation, but overall, it's a hard time of year.

So, we bake cookies.  We play dreidel.  We celebrate Christmas with Working Dad's family.  We try to make each day work, as well as we can.

How do you do December?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chanukah Happenings

There are lots of fun Chanukah events happening around the South Bay and the Los Angeles area.

Red Tricycle has a listing of things in the greater LA area, and I've compiled some of the more local stuff here:

Monday, December 8th: Temple Shalom, How to Make Latkes 4:30-5:30pm
Tuesday, December 9th: Rabbi Silver (Temple Menorah) is reading stories at the Barnes and Noble off of Rosecrans
Friday, December 12: Temple Shalom Latke and Kugel cook-off 5pm tots, 6:30pm dinner, 7pm services
Sunday, December 14th: 11am-1pm, Roy Carrol Holiday Drive, JCC Beach Cities

Tuesday December 16:
           5:30pm, Redondo Beach Civic Center corner of Diamond and PCH
           5:30pm: Del Amo Fashion Center, near AMC Theatres
Wednesday, December 17: 4-6pm, Manhattan Village Mall
Thursday, December 18: 5:30pm, El Segundo City Hall 350 Main Street
Sunday, December 21: 
          10am- 2pm: Manhattan Torah Center, Chanukah Extravaganza
          4-6pm, Hermosa Beach Pier Chanukah Extravaganza

          5-6pm, South Bay Galleria Mall 3rd Floor
Monday, December 22:
          10am- 2pm: Manhattan Torah Center, Chanukah Extravaganza
          5:30pm Plaza El Segundo, in front of Anthropologie
Tuesday, December 23:
           10am- 2pm: Manhattan Torah Center, Chanukah Extravaganza
5pm: Chanukah on Ice at the Toyota Training Center

Temple Menorah is also having a Chanukiah making contest (or a Menorah contest for those of you confused)...

Redondo Beach Ciivic Center 
Tuesday, December 16 at 5:30pm corner of Diamond St and Pacific Coast Hwy

Manhattan Village Shopping Mall
Wednesday, December 17 at 4:00pm - 6:00pm
El Segundo City Hall 
Thursday, December 18 at 5:30pm, 350 Main St, El Segundo
Hermosa Beach Pier
Sunday, December 21 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Galleria Mall
Sunday, December 21 at 5:00pm - 6:00pm in Redondo Beach 3rd floor
Plaza El Segundo
Monday, December 22 at 5:30pm  (in front of Anthropologie) 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Review: Picture People

Over Thanksgiving break up with my sister we took family photos.  We were always planning to take them, but not having my mom with us just made them a bit more difficult.

We had taken our first set with our cousin, a wonderful photographer, down here in SoCal.  Then last year we didn't take one at all.  So, to keep with our longstanding tradition of Thanksgiving photos we gathered at the Picture people in San Jose to take some photos.

My initial outlook wasn't so great.  We stood around for at least 15 minutes before I finally grabbed someone to say hello to us and check us in for our appointment.  We had an 11:40am appointment, with the theory being it's before nap, etc.  However, we didn't start taking photos until after noon, and by the time we were done it was totally melt-down time.

Then we had to wait to review the photos.  Their business model is that it costs nothing to take the photos, but then you buy all your prints from them.  It can be really great, since they have portrait printers and framing on-site.  But it can also be annoying, because you have to wait for a salesperson to review the prints, and who knows how long that will take.  Especially in a group, with melting down children, it seemed like no time was right to review them.

We made an appointment to review them that evening at 5:40pm.  Again, why did we make an appointment?  We sat down to look at the photos after 6:10pm.  And even then we didn't have a sales associate. WE just bought the whole CD ($150) and walked out the door. That seemed the easiest, since each 8x10 print would have been $18.

Overall, I would do it again for quick, relatively easy prints of the family.  But do I recommend it?  Not really.

We worked really hard to coordinate on colors and clothing.  I think it made the picture turn out nicely.  However, I wouldn't have done this background again.  I think the white background would be better for basically ALL the photos.

Plus I HATE that she has us stationed right over the seam in the fact hardwood.  Talk about annoying... I think it's not something that would matter after you edit it for printing, but it's annoying.

I wasn't paid or perked for this.  In fact they even refused to accept the coupon we brought.  Oh well, still worth it.

Do your kids do the chin up 'cheese' thing?  I couldn't get EG to tilt her head down.  Of course the closed eye thing is sort of a family trademark, as you might notice later on from my dad.  I used to do it too, all the time, but I've worked hard to correct it in myself.
Taking some of the kiddos was really nice.  Though it was tough to get them to behave properly.  This one is one of my favorites- nice attitude kiddos.  But that stupid seam line....!

My oldest Nephew is actually getting up to run away here, but she did manage to capture a cute moment.

This photo of my Dad with the kiddos is probably the best photo of the group. Ocho holding hands with her cousin, and both EG and my nephew smiling.  Dad doesn't like that his eyes are squinty, but to me that's the best part, because he was mid laugh when she snapped it.  

I'd been working so hard to get EG's face not to have tons of red marks.  She kept picking at her boo-boos.  Oh well, a mom can only try so hard.  It's a testament to her exuberance...

This photo is at once amazing, and terribly sad.  That we don't have one with my mom in it that's the same is really sad.

This one makes me laugh because of Ocho and EG.  I like that she's holding her sister's head, and that she's also holding hands with her cousin

Of course it wouldn't have been a complete photo session without some just family shots.  By this point it was well past naptime, so I'm amazed at how well we did.

These little cuties are ADORABLE.  Even though he's a bit older than Ocho, Baby L likes to lay down.  When you pick him up he just melts into you.  We laid down Ocho, but she tried to sit up on her own in the basket.  Still these photos are totally precious.  I'm glad we took them too, because EG and Baby J have tons from their two years without having little babies.

This is probably my second favorite photo of the session- both the babies look great, and are looking right at the camera.  Perfect angels!

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